RoboCop (2014)


Doctor Detroit

Main Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Abbie Cornish

Director: Jose Padliha

Tap Dancers - PD

I think we know who will win this tap dance-off.

Peter Lovejoy, my new associate publicist has had a brilliant idea.  He thinks the time has come to return to the Gay White Way in a project that will show off my technical prowess in tap and have plenty of show stopping numbers that my award winning voice can hurl to the second balcony and beyond.  The obvious vehicle that came to mind was a revival of Dames at Sea, a luscious little tap show that has never had a Broadway production.  I was ecstatic at the idea and immediately called Joseph, my manager, and told him to go about securing the rights.  I told Lulu Pigg my tap therapist about it during one of our biweekly workouts so that she could begin getting my calves into shape for the vigorous routines.  She told me I was too late, that some other production company was already in the midst of reviving the show and it was to open shortly.  Joseph confirmed the sorry fact when he called a few minutes later.

I was devastated but Herman Blodgett’s little girl has always had a never say die attitude.  I called up dear Stevie Spielberg who owes me a favor or two and told him to get me the rights and book me a Broadway theater immediately.  He has the cash to make any licensing house forget about exclusivity clauses.  Star is Born productions is going to head off to New York, mount our own revival and open before the other show knows quite what’s hit them.  Then we will let the theater going public decide – a Vicki Lester star vehicle or a revival of taste and refinement.  I think I know who will come out on top.  I then called baritone Corey who has been touring the country in his shark suit and making himself into a cultural icon. As he owes me his new found visibility, I told him he owed me a stint as my leading man.  It’s a show about a dame at sea.  We should be able to put a shark into it somewhere.

I was on a roll as I made call after call to production types and various performers.  Vera Charles was too happy to take a supporting role (she hasn’t worked in years) as long as she got at least one good solo in each act and I nearly have James Tyrone nailed down as well.  I was so on fire that I felt like a machine battering my way through difficulty after difficulty.  When I reached a breathing point and felt the need for a white wine spritzer and a film, I settled into the home theater where my researches turned up 2014’s remake of the 1987 minor classic Robocop.  I decided I was in a cyborg mood so settled in for a few hours of cinematic mayhem.

The original film was Paul Verhoeven’s transition from arty Dutch thrillers to Hollywood action spectaculars where he reined atop the heap in the late 80s and early 90s creating films of style and sly social commentary until he was done in by his association with Joe Eszterhas and a little project called Showgirls from which his career never fully recovered.  Peter Weller of the piercing blue eyes played the title role and, as the titular character spends most of the film in a massively armored suit, the eyes are pretty much what’s left to convey the character’s anguish and contradictions and Weller delivered in spades.

This time around, a less talented director, Jose Padliha, a Brazilian chiefly known for South American set crime dramas, helms the story.  The script credited to five writers (never a good sign) including original scribe Edward Neumeier, again takes place in a Detroit of the foreseeable future which is once again a land of civic corruption and ruthless criminals.  Joel Kinnaman plays Alex Murphy, a good cop who in tracking this corruption, runs afoul of the powers that be and is the target of an assassination attempt with a car bomb.  He survives, but barely, and his desperate wife (Abbie Cornish) allows the OmniCorp cartel to use Alex as the prototype cyborg Robocop in order to save his life.  Gary Oldman as something of a mad scientist takes what remains of his mangled body and brain, melds it with futuristic drone technology and soon we have a killing machine that can think for itself.  There’s one teeny little flaw.  When Alex is allowed to have enough neurotransmitters in his brain to feel emotions, he cannot be the ruthless machine the corporation wants to sell to the government and when his dopamine and serotonin are dialed down, he cannot feel love and compassion for others, especially his long suffering wife and son (John Paul Ruttan).   Of course a killing machine with a soul leads to complications, especially for the evil head of OmniCorp, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton).

The original film had a couple of things going for it that his one lacks, some mordant social commentary and a subtext of the passion, crucifixion and resurrection in the story of Alex Murphy that Peter Weller managed to capture.  Verhoeven also didn’t flinch from some of the cruelty necessary to tell his story.  This time around, the whole film has been dumbed down.  A Greek chorus of a character (a slumming Samuel L. Jackson), who is a host of a Fox News type show, delivers all the exposition.  All I can assume is the writers feel millennial audiences are too dumb to work things out for themselves or they were too lazy to write a script in which the essential information comes from interactions of character and plot. Murphy’s injury is almost a throw away moment and there is no sense of sacrifice in this telling.

Joel Kinnaman tries valiantly to make the title role his own and mostly fails.  He just doesn’t have the gravitas or the charisma to pull it off.  The supporting cast is mostly forgettable but both Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman, as the villains/morally ambiguous centers of the piece both have their moments.  Both of them have been known to chew the scenery and run off with films in the past.  Here, they’re both remarkably restrained as if their only true motivation is their paycheck.

The film does have a handsome sheen courtesy of the art department and Lula Carvalho’s cinematography.  The action sequences in particular are well choreographed and bring the at times stodgy film to life.  Of particular note is a motorcycle chase which looks a bit like a live action version of something out of Tron.  Despite this, my best recommendation is that if you run across this on your Netflix, that you find the original instead.

Evidence lockers.  Iranian war.  Gratuitous suicide bombers.  Smartphone tip offs.  Rejected amputees. Gratuitous Frank Sinatra recording.  Face in the crowd. ED-209 droids.

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her entire back catalog and follow her on Twitter at

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  • Alex Diaz-Granados

    November 4, 2015 at 10:07 am

    I actually saw (and loved) the original Robocop. I will take a pass on this dumbed-down and unnecessary remake.

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